NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A New Orleans-area man has admitted keeping an autistic relative captive in a tent, a shed and a cage installed for animals in the back yard of the trailer home he shared with his mother, stepfather and stepsister. Jody Lambert of Amite also admitted shoving the woman to the ground, regularly insulting and threatening her, and knowing about other physical and emotional abuse.
Lambert pleaded guilty Thursday to one count of civil rights conspiracy. Prosecutors asked the judge to drop charges of forced labor, forced labor conspiracy and interference with housing. Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 10. He faces up to 10 years behind bars.
The woman was 22 years old when Tangipahoa Parish sheriff’s deputies found her wandering in the yard and arrested the family in June 2016. She appeared malnourished and was covered in insect bites, authorities said.
The federal case involved horrific accusations of abuse. One suspect is accused of shooting the woman, identified only as D.P., with a BB gun from such close range that pellets lodged under her skin. At one point, according to the indictment, she was forced to eat her cremated mother’s ashes while defendants laughed.
According to the factual basis for Lambert’s guilty plea, he knew physical abuse was routine, including a number of specific incidents: the BB-gun shooting; being burned with a lighter; being dragged across the floor by her hair, and being hit on the head with a board, causing bleeding.
He also knew of routine threats including threats to beat her if she disobeyed orders, to shoot her if she tried to escape, and to kill her if she reported the family to law enforcement, the document said.
Lambert’s mother, Raylaine Knope; stepfather, Terry Knope II; and stepsister, Taylor Knope, were indicted with him in July. In addition to the other charges, the elder Knopes face a sex trafficking charge for allegedly planning to force D.P. into prostitution.
Lambert’s sister, Bridget Lambert, pleaded guilty in September to forced labor conspiracy.
“As part of their plan to exert control over D.P., Raylaine Knope and Jody Lambert on several occasions ordered D.P. to remove her clothing and make sexual advances to men,” the indictment alleged.
That was not mentioned in the factual basis for Jody Lambert’s guilty plea. It did say that “T.J.K” began receiving D.P.’s disability checks shortly after her mother died, and “R.K.” directed her son and, more often, “T.K.” to lock the woman in a tent.
After portable sheds were installed, D.P. was kept in one of those, with a 5-gallon bucket as a toilet. However, when spilled water rotted the floor, she was put back in a tent, this one under an “open wooden structure,” according to the document Lambert signed.
Several months before authorities found D.P., she was put into the cage, which “had previously been used to house animals.”
The indictment described it as a chicken-wire enclosure.
“Lambert, T.K. and one of R.K.’s minor children gathered branches and a tarp to put over the cage as camouflage,” according to the document Lambert signed Thursday. “Once the cage was ready, T.J.K. told D.P. that if she was going to act ‘retarded’ and ‘play stupid,’ then she would be treated accordingly.”
Copyright © 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.